Verb phrases in English have the following forms:

Level: beginner

  1. main verb:
  main verb  
We are here.
I like it.
Everybody saw the accident.
We laughed.  

The verb can be in the present tense (are, like) or the past tense (saw, laughed).

  1. the auxiliary verb be and a main verb in the –ing form:
  auxiliary be -ing form
Everybody is watching.
We were laughing.

A verb phrase with be and –ing expresses continuous aspect. A verb with am/is/are expresses present continuous and a verb with was/were expresses past continuous.

  1. the auxiliary verb have and a main verb in the past participle form:
  auxiliary have past participle  
They have enjoyed themselves.
Everybody has worked hard.
He had finished work.

A verb phrase with have and the past participle expresses perfect aspect. A verb with have/has expresses present perfect and a verb with had expresses past perfect.

  1. modal verb (can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would) and a main verb:
  modal verb main verb
They will come.
He might come.
The verb phrase 1


The verb phrase 2


Level: intermediate

  1. the auxiliary verbs have and been and a main verb in the –ing form:
  auxiliary have been -ing form  
Everybody has been working hard.
He had been singing.  

A verb phrase with havebeen and the -ing form expresses both perfect aspect and continuous aspect. A verb with have/has expresses present perfect continuous and a verb with had expresses past perfect continuous.

  1. a modal verb and the auxiliaries be, have and have been:
  modal auxiliary verb
They will be listening.
He might have arrived.
She must have been listening.
  1. the auxiliary verb be and a main verb in the past participle form:
  auxiliary be past participle  
English is spoken all over the world.
The windows have been cleaned.  
Lunch was being served.  
The work will be finished soon.
They might have been invited to the party.

A verb phrase with be and the past participle expresses passive voice.

The verb phrase 3


The verb phrase 4


Level: advanced

We can use the auxiliaries do and did with the infinitive for emphasis:

It was a wonderful party. I did enjoy it.
I do agree with you. I think you are absolutely right.

We can also use do for polite invitations:

Do come and see us some time.
There will be lots of people there. Do bring your friends.


Hello agie,

The first is correct. We rarely use the verb understand in a progressive form but we do use try, so I'm trying... is correct.


If you say I try... then you are talking about a general state, not your current activity.



The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to ask if the following is correct
If there is a problem/difficult situation that we have to get over can we also say that we can pass a difficult time?
Thank you in advance

Hello agie,

You could talk about getting past this difficult time or getting through this difficult time but it would depend on the context, I think.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter & Kirk,

I am back to your website again.

Sorry, but my question is off topic but still under the umbrella of a much more bigger topic which is the verbs. I can't seem to find any lesson about subject-verb agreement. Has there been any discussion made about it?

I really want to read it, and maybe ask few questions about it.

Thank you!

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for getting back to me on this.

Well, my question is about the use of the indefinite pronouns specifically the indefinite pronouns "Some, All, None, Any, More, and Most". In most of the grammar books that I've read these pronouns can take either a singular or a plural verb depending on the kind of nouns that follows the "of - phrase".

Whilst I am aware that If a non-count noun follows the "of-phrase" , the verb needed is singular in form.

Most of the grammar books I've read advise that if a noun that follows the of-phrase is a non-count, then the verb is singular, and if the noun that follows the of-phrase is a count noun, then it is plural.

I have no problem with the usage of a non-count noun. However, with the count noun, I am still confused.

What makes me confuse is if its possible that the pronouns collectively called as "SANAMM" can take a singular count noun after the "of-phrase".

Some of the houses are burned down.
*Some of the house is burned down.

Some of the cakes are eaten.
*Some of the cake is eaten.

Are the above examples with the asterisk possible? If yes, could you please explain the difference in meaning between the sentences.

Thank you!

Hello mik0303
Before I answer your questions, now that I see what you are trying to understand, I realise that there are actually a couple of pages on our site that could be helpful for you. One is Determiners and quantifiers ( and the other is quantifiers (
As for the example sentences you asked about, 'Some of the houses are burned down' is correct, though really we'd just say 'some of the houses burned down', but in any case, the verb is plural because 'some of the houses' is considered plural. 'some' means 'more than one' here.
You can also say, 'Some of the house burned down', but the meaning is different. In this case, 'some' effectively means 'a part of'. So, for example, perhaps the garage burned down, but not the kitchen.
The same is true with the sentences about the cakes or cake. The first one could mean, for example, that of the six cakes, four were eaten but two are left. The second one means that part of the cake was eaten, but there is still some left.
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for the answer and the links. I did visit the links you provided, but what I found there was the basic structure.

What I would like to figure out is if the below structure is possible based on my given examples.

1. Some of Non-count + always singular verb (This is well explained.)

Examples: Some of the water IS gone.
Some sugar HAS spilled.
Some of the information IS not clear.

Non-count nouns have no plural inflection and therefore requires singular verb.

2. Some of + countable noun
We know for a fact that countable noun has singular and plural form.

Example: child - children house - houses

And we also know that if the indefinite pronouns collectively called as SANAMM
uses plural count nouns in the "of-phrase", the verb to use is plural.

Example: Some of the teachers ATTEND the meeting.
Some of the students ARE absent.

My question is, is it possible that these pronouns under the SANAMM group be
followed by a singular count noun?

Some of the cakes were eaten.
Some of the cake was eaten.

In the example about cake, the first one uses plural verb. Do we construe that as a
plural count noun that's why we use the plural verb "were"?

In the second example about cake, it uses a singular verb. Do we construe that as a
singular countable noun or is it functioning there as a non-count noun that's why we
use the singular verb "was"?

Could you please confirm if my analysis is correct?

Analysis 1: Some OF the NON-COUNT NOUN + Singular Verb
Analysis 2: Some OF the PLURAL COUNT NOUN + Plural Verb
Analysis 3: Some OF the SINGULAR COUNTABLE NOUN + Singular Verb *

I am not quite sure about number 3 if the the SANAMM structure could be followed by a singular countable noun or not, or if it is a possible combination in English.

Thank you.

Hello mik0303
I'll start with your questions in the order they come after the examples about the cake.
1) Yes, that's correct: 'cakes' is a plural count noun, hence the plural verb 'were'.
2) Yes, in this case, 'cake' is used as a non-count noun and this is why the verb is singular.
3) Analyses 1 and 2 are correct -- your example sentences with cake exemplify them both very well. The structure in Analysis 3 is not grammatical in English: 'some' is used to speak about an indefinite quantity (with non-count nouns) or an indefinite number greater than one (with plural count nouns); it is not used with singular count nouns.
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Good evening!

Thanks for the explanation. So, to sum up there are three patterns that we have to observe in this construct.

First one is "Of-phrase + Non-count noun + Singular Verb".

The second one is "Of-phrase + Count noun (plural form) + Plural Verb".

And the third one is "Of-phrase + Noun which could be construed as singular or plural like in the case of the noun "cake", where the noun cake could be regarded as either count noun (can be counted individually) or non-count noun (which in our given example means that a part of it (the cake itself) was eaten.

Do these pattern hold true for fractional expressions?

One-fourth of the houses ARE burned down. (referring to individual houses)
One fourth of sand IS white. (non-count)

But, can we say:

One-fourth of the house IS burned down. (Meaning a part or portion of the house)*

Thanks Kirk!